Oh wait, is this non-book thing becoming a THING?

Perhaps it is…

First: some random facts:

  • It’s been cold. I’m clumsy. Add those things together and you get ice-slippage, landing on my bum, and several days of back pain. Hopefully I’m past the worst of it.
  • I’ve been spending less time than I like on things that aren’t related to playing silly games on electronic devices. And a corollary fact: Trivia Crack is extraordinarily well named.
  • And oh yeah – I totally¬†got my acceptance letter (OMG OMG OMG). Graduate school? Possible mid-life career change? Looks like it might be happening. (OMG OMG OMG)

As per the norm, I am all but wrapped up in all things fiber. Wayne and I went to the Ocean City Fiber Festival on Saturday (this is pre-slippage). I was a very good fiber-a-holic. I got enough upcycled merino in this crazy awesome pink color to make a Vitamin D. I got some really pretty wool-acrylic blend that’s destined to be a Now in a Minute. There was also some cloud-soft, hand-spun, undyed cotton that I have no plans for but could not leave there. It was $5.00 for 600 yards! I know!

I saw a good portion of my knit-crochet group at the festival, which made me very happy. My favorite pizelle maker even gave Wayne a great big hug! He looked a little like he was on stage and had never seen a script, but he lived through it. Poor guy – since he met me he has pretty much taken up residence outside his comfort zone. He does indeed love me to bits. ūüôā

Plans are in the works for a weekend trip rather soon. We’re talking about going to Maryland Sheep and Wool this year (SQUEE!). Tentative plan is to leave here before sunup on Saturday and drive across the Bay to the festival, and then spend most of the day there. When we leave, we’ll drive up to Gettysburg, where we will spend the night and then wander around the battlegrounds on Sunday morning. We’ll drive back home after lunch on Sunday. In case you missed it, that’s a Saturday of fiber and a Sunday of history – two of my very favorite things. I’m wicked excited.

There’s not a lot to report on the actual construction of items made from yarn this week. I finished one small project but I’m going to wait until I try it out to talk about it – maybe next week if I remember to do this again. I have four things in progress: a baby blanket, a sock, a shawl, and a sweater-vest-thingee. I’m planning to whip up a baby hat as soon as I finish the blanket and get them off to their new home soon – hopefully they will have moved on by this weekend. I’m also putting the sock in my travel project bag so it will go places with me and perhaps receive some love. I mean, seriously – it’s a sock, I cast it on like 2 weeks ago. That’s crazy, right?

In case you’re interested, these are the lovely vendors from whom I purchased awesome¬†fiber at the OC Fiber Festival:

I just hope Wayne understands that MSW will be about 1000 times as awesome, so I’ll have to spend a bunch more money. I mean, seriously? It’s MARYLAND SHEEP AND WOOL. I may possibly be more excited about a wool festival than I am about the whole master’s degree thing. Odd, that. ūüėČ

And the book love continues

It’s time for another stunning and fabulous update on my insane amounts of reading! Aren’t you excited? I know you are.

A book with nonhuman characters

Until Tuesday by Luis Carlos Montalvan

This is the story of the author and his awesome service dog, Tuesday. You can pick which is the nonhuman. ūüôā

Capt Monlalvan is a veteran of the Iraq war. He served two tours. He was injured in the line of duty and was awarded the Purple Heart. His injuries eventually led him to muster out. He then spent a couple years being entirely miserable until he was lucky enough to get matched up with Tuesday. Tuesday offers him a safe place to be when the world around him pecks at his PTSD, a steady back when¬†his brain injuries cause him to get dizzy, a slobbery mouth for shoe-fetching because it’s wicked hard to pick up shoes with a back injury.

I learned a great deal about one man’s point of view of the war, told by a man who is a journalist, a public speaker, and an advocate for disabled vets. The story is interesting, but… in a couple places, Montalvan talks about folks who speak against¬†him. After I finished the book, I did a little Googling and discovered that there are men who served with him who doubt that his injuries were quite as bad as he makes out. One voiced surprise that he won the Purple Heart. My opinion? Even if he is exaggerating his injuries, it’s still a great story. He loves that dog, and following along as they get to know each other was totally worth it.

A book with antonyms in the title

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

You’d think it’s non-fiction week or something! It’s not. Well, not entirely.

So this book. I heard about it on 2 Knit Lit Chicks and it made its way onto my “to read” list because it sounded interesting. And oh yes, it was¬†very interesting.

The author tells the story of what happened at Memorial Medical Center, a mid-sized hospital in New Orleans, during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina. She won the Pulitzer for investigative journalism for this book and yes, it was well-deserved, and then some. No stone was left unturned. No story was left untold. Nothing about the story was beaten to death – rather, it was told without a whole lot of drama on Ms. Fink’s part, but read with a ton on mine. This was one of those books that required me to stop and read things aloud to Wayne, normally followed by a “can you believe that???” or preceded by an “Oh my GOD listen to this” or both.

The nuts and bolts of the story are here¬†in much less detail, but it’s true to Fink’s story. I would recommend reading the book, though, and not just the article. Some of the things that happened made me want to build a time machine, go back in time, and punch some doctors and nurses in the throat. And I’m non-violent. They¬†killed people. Seriously. Killed them. I want to tell you more, but y’all should really read the book and find out for yourselves. It’s a terrifically written saga of some terrifically horrid crap.

A book you can finish in a day

Rising Tides and Inner Harbor by Nora Roberts

Make that two books I read in a day. Yes, two. In one day (I did some other reading, too Рit was a snow day after all). I am on a Nora Roberts diet now, I swear. That was a good seven to eight hours that should have been spent on Lonesome Dove. But anyway!

These are books 2 and 3 of the Chesapeake Bay Saga (I read Book 1 last week to fit the “book set in your hometown”). They were sweet little stories, except:

  • Every character is beautiful and lovely and handsome and intelligent except the kid’s crack whore mom
  • Every single person knows how to sail (with one exception… see the next bullet)
  • The only person who can’t sail is oddly and totally unbelievable. She’s some sort of virginal egghead who wears satin undies and thigh-highs? Sorry – no.
  • And my biggest niggling UGH: the fictional town of St. Chris is on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake and the streets in town run westward from the water. Map that out and I’m quite sure you’ll agree with me that the townspeople are merfolk. There’s no other way it could happen.

The only other complaint I have is that since I’ve read six Nora Roberts books in the recent past, my Kindle keeps giving me screen-saver ads for other romance novels. Amazon now thinks I have sponge-brain. Ugh.

Currently Reading

  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (initial reaction – slow but good and the 1980’s-era mini-series was dead on)
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King (initial reaction OH MY GOD THIS IS A GOOD BOOK, and the librarian told me there’s a mini-series in the works for this one so¬†yes!)

On Deck

  • Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington
  • Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin

And on that day, no books were discussed

I just wanted to remind everyone that I do more than read. ūüôā

I’ve been working on a couple yummy fiber-y things. To whit:

  • A mile-a-minute blanket for a coworker’s soon-to-be-here baby girl (Hobby Lobby Crafter’s Secret – complete and soon to be delivered)
  • A rectangular granny blanket for another soon-to-arrive bundle of awesome (friend of a step-daughter)
  • An ear-warmer a-la the stuff my Mommom always had in her closet (leftover Knit Picks Wool of the Andes superwash, making it up as I go along, lots of frogs & tinks)
  • Socks! Toe up socks with a difference, in Lion brand brown sock yarn (Tuesday Morning FTW), for my sweetie
  • A half-round shawl in some random cotton (again, Tuesday Morning)
  • An infinity scarf in some sparkly cotton-like stuff from Tuesday Morning, finished and for me. I wore it to knitting group last weekend and got fat knitting compliments.
  • A pull-over, sleeveless sweater-vest-thing, sort of based on another pattern and sort of winged.

I’ve been living a lie – I am not as much of a geek as my name implies. Getting pictures of the stuff I take off¬†my iPad and onto Ravelry is kicking my butt. I’ll get some pics uploaded somewhere, eventually, and share them. Like a boss. And whatnot.

And also, Tuesday Morning loves¬†me – I can’t go a week without going there and I can’t leave without at least one skein of something. And Wayne will no longer go there with me, which makes me sad because I love spending time with him but makes me happy because I can spend like¬†an hour thinking about what yarn I really, really need.

And one more thing – unless I’m doing something complicated yarn-wise, I can knit and crochet without looking, which means I can read and make at the same time. I know it sounds like magic, right? It’s not. It does, however, allow me to look like I do 20 times as much in a day as I should be able to. It’s all smoke and mirrors, in other words.

Reading update, and whatnot

Happy Valentine’s day, all! It has been a¬†very productive reading week for me and I’ve knocked many more items off my reading challenge list. Let’s discuss, shall we?

A classic romance

The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton

How had I missed this amazing book? Perhaps I overlooked it because Edith Wharton also wrote Ethan Frome, that oft-assigned classic that English teachers so love to use as an example of realism, and I so hate to read. No offense to anyone who loves the book; I find it torture each and every time. It seems my (subconscious) belief that all of Wharton’s works would be the same was, in a word, wrong.

Let me share my synopsis of this book: Newland Archer, the main character, is stuck tightly in New York society in the late 1800s. He’s had his affair and is ready to settle down with the lovely, young, and socially correct May Welland. He’s very taken with May. But then May’s cousin, Ellen Olenska, enters the scene and Newland finds himself with the need to make a choice. I don’t think it’s over-sharing to tell you that he falls in love with Ellen and questions ending his engagement. Throughout the rest of the book, we see an absolutely gorgeous picture of true love, what it means, how it grows and changes, and its effects on the people around us.

I finished the book on a deep sigh and a smile, finding myself overly pleased with how Newland Archer lived his life. He is a wonderfully developed character, really three-dimensional. He did things I wanted to kick him for, and things I wanted to hug him for. He never seemed to forget who and what he was raised to be. I might be ¬†just a little in love with this man. Some of the pictures Edith Wharton painted with her words are still in my head: the image of May with her bow and arrow, the flowers in Ellen’s sitting room, the gold-edged paper on which¬†Newland’s mother wrote out menus, the dining room full of rowdy teachers. The book is lovely in and of itself, but the love story takes it to a whole new level. It’s no wonder it won the Pulitzer in 1921.

A graphic novel

The Homecoming by Ray Bradbury, illustrated by Dave McKean

I may have taken an easy out on this one by choosing a WISP. I was looking for a Neil Gaiman graphic novel at the library, but all they had was The Sandman volumes 5, 7, and 8. I’m not willing to risk starting a series at number 5. So I did some looking for another familiar name and found this lovely little morsel of deliciousness.

The story is short and is atypically typical Bradbury. I expect science fiction, fantasy, mind-bendiness from him and this story does not disappoint. It’s an awesome read in and of itself, but adding McKean’s illustrations takes it to a whole new level. It’s as if he drew what was in my head – he crawled in there, snapped Polaroids, took them home, and painted them. What’s funny is that his illustrations are also in the Sandman series – see how things always loop back on themselves?

Anyway! If you’re not a graphic-novel reader and want to stick your toes into that particular pool to see test the temperature before your cannonball, I highly recommend this book. I imagine other WISPs would also work. Check them out!

A book that takes place in your hometown

Sea Swept by Nora Roberts

I know! I already complained about Nora’s books once and I chose another one. Hear me out on this one: She likes to set her stories in semi-fictional small towns in Maryland, and I live in a not-so-fictional medium-sized town in Maryland, and I decided this would be close enough. It’s set in a town that Ms. Roberts calls St. Christopher, but which seems to actually be Crisfield. One of the main characters lives and works in Princess Anne, where I work. There’s a trip to an unnamed mall which must be in Salisbury – it’s the only mall within fifty¬†miles on Crisfield, and I live in Salisbury. So yeah. It’s close enough for me.

Sea Swept is a love story, of course, and I can see how it can stretch into a trilogy because the main male character has two grown brothers. The brothers were all abused and rough teens who were adopted by a college professor (I bet he taught where I work LOL) and a pediatrician who lived outside St. Christopher. Their mom died a few years before the story starts. They all meet up for the first time in years at the hospital where their dad is dying. Dad’s found another stray, a ten year-old kid, and has taken him in. On his deathbed he gets the three older ones to agree that they will all take care of Seth for him.

In typical Roberts fashion, there are fist fights, people who don’t know they’re in love, people who sleep together after knowing each other for five days, lots of bad language, and frequent references to All Things Maryland. Okay, so these books aren’t literature, and they can be consumed in three to four hours. They don’t stretch my brain or surprise me. They don’t even really make me want to read the next two books in any given trilogy (but I’ll give you a hint – one of the categories is “a book you can read in a day” so Ms. Roberts is probably not done yet!). As I said in my last Nora Roberts post, she’s not going to win a Pulitzer. But she talks about home – I can take a walk at lunchtime and see where the social worker works, and guess where she might live. I can drive the road the brothers took to go to the mall. The familiarity is pretty cool, all things considered.

Currently Reading(*):

  • Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
  • Until Tuesday by Luis Carlos Montalvan
  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

On Deck:

  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin

* I feel the need to explain why I am almost always reading more than one book at a time. I try for one on my Kindle (Five Days at Memorial) that is portable and easy to read over my lunch at work or on the bike at the gym. I also try to have at least one at home book, which is normally on actual paper. I love the feel and the heft of a book, particularly one¬†like¬†Lonesome Dove, which I think has about 2,748 pages. If my “home” book is fiction, I sometimes add a non-fiction at home. I work on the theory that non-fiction is best read when interruptions are guaranteed because it’s a lot easier to jump in and out of it, and fiction works better for feet-up, cat in my lap, tea at my elbow, hours-long reading.

Could I appreciate each book more if I read one at a time? I’m sure I could. And whenever I get to a can’t put down spot, whatever can’t be put down gets all my reading time. Most recently that was The Age of Innocence (Kindle); everything else including reading emails and stalking random people on Facebook came to a screeching halt at about 62% because it was just plain too good to stop.

This week’s offering… More Books!

Yes, I do things other than read. I get my braces adjusted and eat Ibuprofin. I exercise, knit, crochet, talk, listen to podcasts and music, fix computer stuff, write reports, cook, fold laundry… well, you know, I do¬†stuff. But for now, I am obsessed with that old PopSugar reading challenge and I’m sticking with that. And so, this week’s categories…..

A book based on a true story

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I’m quite sure this book does not fit the intention of this category; I suspect they were thinking more about a true crime, or some fictionalized version of something awesome, but I was reading this and I needed to finish it because it’s amazing and I need to bless someone else with it, so I’m saying this is where it fits.¬†I am not actually going to review it, though. This book has been discussed and reviewed and lauded countless times and my little opinion will do nothing at all to change its greatness. I will share that Elizabeth Gilbert’s mad skillz extend past this book; The Signature of All Things is also amazing.

Instead, I’m going to encourage you to bask in Ms. Gilbert’s stunning awesomeness in another format: TED talks. Your Elusive Creative Genius is worthy of listening to over and over, especially if you find yourself in a writing slump (as I do, like now, which is why I have so much time to read). Creativity, though, is not limited to writing and I believe that everyone can find something that resonates in this talk. Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating, while shorter, is also a stunner. She’s just all around awesome, people. Believe me.

A memoir

Dad is Fat by James Gaffigan

First, a confession: I was expecting something along the lines of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me¬†or Shockaholic, two books that I love-love-love. I was disappointed. Instead, I got a series of essays about being a fat, pale father of five who doesn’t think he’s good enough for his wife. There were inconsistencies, there was redundancy. It was funny in places, don’t get me wrong, but his stand up is¬†much funnier. I didn’t laugh out loud. I didn’t gasp. I barely finished it before¬†OverDrive automatically returned it to the library. But I did finish.

I would say if you’re a tremendous fan of Jim Gaffigan or of self-deprecating humor, you might like this book. Otherwise, spend your time on something a bit more interesting.

A book originally written in a different language

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

Quick summary: Originally written in Spanish, this is the super awesome story of Eliza, an orphaned baby who is taken in by a family consisting of an old-maid sister and her two brothers who live in a British colony in Chile, set in the early to mid 1800s. Eliza has some odd talents: an amazing sense of smell, a very accurate memory, and the ability to make herself invisible. Her life and family are chock-full of half-truths, secrets, and lies; much of which she doesn’t find out about until after she’s traveled, unchaperoned, to try to track down her first love near San Francisco during the gold rush.

This book is just amazing. The characters are sometimes quirky, sometimes funny, often selfish, and very believable. The settings are gloriously, almost poetically, described. It doesn’t read like a translation, which is a great nod of respect to not only Isabel Allende, but also to the translator (whose name I cannot find now, and I’ve returned the book – sorry!). It’s very close to the top of my recent reads; probably a close second behind Life After Life (which is still staking a claim on space in my head).

A book you started but never finished

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers

I can no longer say I never finished it. I also can’t remember why I put it down. I think I started it last summer, and it gets pretty heavy and dark in places. It’s not a summer read, not for me anyway. But it’s a gloriously fabulous book to devour with a cup of tea, in front of a fire. Review-wise, I suggest you read the one on Goodreads (the title’s hyperlink will take you there). Rather than breaking down the story, the characters, the what-not nuts and bolts, I want to talk about how it affected me.

Eggers and I are the same age. When he was being (to all intents and purposes) the single parent to his eight year-old brother Toph, I was in the Navy. It’s hard for me to imagine the GenX life he describes, although I have seen evidence of it in movies and TV shows, because I lived nothing even close to that. I don’t know how much different my life in the early 90s would have been had I stuck it out in college, but I’m guessing it would have been nowhere near as interesting as Dave’s. So there’s that side of things.

On another hand (be prepared for a many-handed creature here), I totally get his constant low-level worrying because I am also a worrier. I get the feeling that once a job feels like a job, you no longer want to do it. I get the horror of looking at a kid’s school pictures and thinking he (or she) looks lonely/scared/lost enough that someone at his (or her) school is going to report you to child protective services. I get the whole am I doing this right, is this how it’s done, is this all going to work sort of non-voice underlining absolutely everything I do (even typing this blog post). I heard something on the Books on the Nightstand podcast not long ago (an older episode because I’m behind) where Ann said she thought a particular author was living under her bed. Emotionally, worryingly, I feel the same about Eggers.

On yet another hand, this book is often hilarious. The conversations Dave has with his quasi-suicidal friend John, some of the material from the magazine he and a group of friends are starting, his quirky and off-the-wall self-talk Рit was all crazy funny. Some of the things that were gut-splitting were also, oddly, some of the things that were also dark and weird. I must like dark and weird.

I could go on but I’m getting up to a simply ridiculous number of hands (no more than three, with a nod to Daughter of Fortune and the artist who charged by the number of hands in a portrait). Plus four books are more than enough for one post, right?

Currently Reading:

  • One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

On Deck:

  • The Awakening and Selected Short Fiction by Kate Chopin
  • The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (hopefully – going to the library soon)
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (will move up or down based on the library haul)

Happy reading!

Ticking off the list

Welcome to Episode 2 of my personal 2015 reading challenge! As a refresher, I’m doing the PopSugar challenge (click the link) and my main rule is that a book can only count for one entry. And so, sans further adieu…

A mystery or thriller

Big Boned (Heather Wells Mysteries) – Meg Cabot

I’ve read all of the books in this series; this one was the last for me but not the last in order. I’ve recently rediscovered a long-forgotten love of mysteries and the Heather Wells ones are lighthearted, girly, cute, and funny (as opposed to some others that are not quite so amusing – I am sure one or two will crop up on the list before I finish the challenge).

Heather is a size 12 to 14 ex-teen pop star (think Tiffany) who has recently split with her long-term boyfriend who was in a boy band (thing NSync) and has since gotten a job as the assistant director of a large dormitory at a fictional college in New York City. This particular residence hall, as Heather herself would remind us to call it, is such a frequent location for murders that people associated with the college, the media, and even the local police call it “Death Dorm.” In this episode, the dead body pops up pretty early and Heather, despite warnings to do otherwise, puts herself on the trail of the murderer.

I enjoyed this book, and the rest in the series. Meg Cabot has a light-hearted writing style that fits well between more serious books. I’m working on only reading two books at a time (currently I have five active), and I will choose a light and sweet book like this after the heavier reads like Life After Life (see my¬†last post). Well, that’s assuming I can wean myself down to two at a time. A girl’s gotta dream, right? Anyway! I found the Heather Wells mysteries sort of brain palette cleansers and nice, quick reads. I don’t imagine this book or any others in the series would ever win any sort of award, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re fun to read.

A trilogy

The Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy – Nora Roberts

This trilogy sort of continues¬†in the light-read vein. They’re romances set in the town of Boonsboro, which is a lovely and fictional small town set in northern Maryland, near the border with Pennsylvania. Each book features a new love story where the girl is one of three very best friends and the guy is one of three brothers. A couple sub-stories run throughout the trilogy: an awesome ghost and revitalizing this sweet little town.

Because they span three books, the six main characters all get to be rather well developed, perhaps more so than I would expect to find in a beach-read sort of romance. They overlap and interweave, they all have a nicely developed character flaw, each gets to run into some sort of obstacle on his or her way to true love. They are, in short, sweet people whom I found myself rooting for by the end of each book.

I’m not a big romance fan, generally. I have this odd, almost Puritanical, thing where I can’t actually stand to read the steamy bits and have to skip them, so I’m not a fan of the type of romance that is all sex, all the time. I’ve read Nora Roberts before and have found her to not to write those types of books, so when the first of the series showed up on my recommended books on OverDrive, I thought sure, why not? And then I found myself wondering what the deal was with the ghost, how the grumpy brother was going to work into things, and what was going to happen with the bakery (among other things) and just read the next two to find out. If you’re curious, and I am sure you are, I read the second book and half of the third in an afternoon. In other words: quick, light, and fun.

Seems I’m on a bit of a not-so-serious kick, doesn’t it? Well, just wait for number three…

A book by an author with your initials

The Lake of Dreams – Kim Edwards

With another nod to Barb and Tracie, this book is chock full of¬†family secrets. It’s also about three feet up the serious ladder. Let’s call it a day and a half read.

Lucy, the main character, goes home to the town where she grew up, Lake of Dreams in upstate New York, after she learns that her mother had a bit of an accident. She’d been living in Japan with her long-term boyfriend, was unemployed, barely spoke the language, and was seriously stressed by the several-a-day minor earthquakes that were shaking up her little house. When her boyfriend suggested she go home for a bit, she jumped at the chance.

She arrived with a sort of flayed soul and started seeking a way to heal it. She soon stumbled across a gigantic secret; a hidden great-aunt. This was a major discovery because her family was all about their personal history, the third-generation family business, inter-generational connections, etc. As Lucy starts unraveling the truth of this long-lost relative, she uncovers some hidden truths about herself and about her father’s untimely death. Everything unravels all at once, and in a very short period of time, but in the end it is all drawn back together in a way that left me, as a reader, feeling really good about the story and the time I invested in reading it.

The language of the book is just lovely; often things are so well-described that I felt like I could see and feel them. Lucy, the only character we know well, is perfectly real. She’s telling the story in first person and she never hides her own issues and foibles. She makes many mistakes and totally owns them, in other words. She’s sometimes an idiot, sometimes terribly brave, and always likable (even though I felt the need to tell her aloud, more than once, that she needed to back the **** up).

I really liked this book. It’s one that will, at the end of the challenge, make me glad that I did it – otherwise I might never have found it.

Next up…

I’m currently reading:

On deck: